14 JUN 2018

Protecting Women Online

Kent Messenger Column – 14-06-18

"I've had death threats, I've had people tweeting that I should be hung if 'they could find a tree big enough to take the fat bitch's weight'... I've had rape threats...and n*gger, over and over and over again". These were the words of Diane Abbott MP during a parliamentary debate last year about intimidation against members of parliament. It was one of the the first times many people heard the extent of sexist and racist abuse facing women in UK politics – much of it coming from online social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Many of my female MP colleagues have suffered in similar ways to Diane and not only is it deeply hurtful and worrying, but it is also one of the reasons that make it more difficult for women to stand for public office. And it's not just MPs of course. A recent study by Amnesty International found that a staggering 1 in 5 women have suffered online abuse or harassment.

The internet does not respect international boundaries which means young women everywhere are vulnerable to abusive content from wherever in the world it originates, including the residents of Maidstone and the Weald.

The PM clearly recognises that this is an agenda which requires international co-operation. Amidst all the maligning and mud-slinging of trade tariffs at the G7 last week, Mrs May courageously chose to use the international stage to advance this mission, just as she did in her speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year.

She is right to demand that internet giants use their cutting-edge technology to rapidly remove content which is threatening or abusive towards women. I hope that her words will be heeded, and swift action taken in the same way that extremist content was addressed earlier this year. The Prime Minister is showing strong leadership and determination on this issue and she has my full support.

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